Did you ever wish you could hold a yard sale for your digital content to make money off of the old music, movies and books taking up space in your cloud? Well, Apple has filed a patent which, if approved, could allow users to sell or loan iTunes items to another person.
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has now published a patent application that Apple filed last June called “Managing Access To Digital Content Items.” In short, the patent would allow users to legally sell items purchased via iTunes to another person by transferring the digital access rights of the item.
Apple would keep track of who currently has the rights to an item and would also facilitate the sale. Apple would get a cut of the profits, and it’s conceivable that the original publisher or developer might also take a cut.
After completion of a sale or loan and the transfer of digital access rights, the original owner of the rights would no longer have access to the item.
However, the patent also describes a system that would allow more than one person to buy a copy of a digital item. Content owned by a user could be copied and given to multiple users, who would then allow all of the users involved in the transaction to have access to the digital item at the same time.
It’s likely that limitations would be placed on the sales of these digital items, such as restrictions on how often an item can be bought and sold or the imposition of a set minimum price for selling a specific item.
Will It Really Happen?
While it’s an exciting prospect and something Apple has obviously been working on, it’s possible that nothing will ever happen with the patent. Just because the patent has been filed doesn’t mean it will be approved, or that Apple will ever actually develop the system.
Here’s some of the official language from the patent itself, as filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office:
“A first user purchases a digital content item, such as a digital book, from an online store. The first user later decides to sell the digital content item to a second user. The first user and/or the second user notify the online store of this arrangement. The online store determines whether one or more criteria are satisfied in order to allow the transfer in ownership to take place. If the one or more criteria are satisfied, then the online store stores data that reflects the transaction and updates authorization data that authorizes the second user to access the digital content item and prevents the first user from accessing the digital content item,” according to the filing.
“Alternatively, instead of a third party determining whether one or more criteria are satisfied, the first (or second) user’s device makes the determination and may be responsible for preventing the first user’s device from further consuming the digital content item. In some embodiments, the online store and/or the publisher of the digital content item may receive a portion of the proceeds of the transfer.”